Sabbath is not cool. In a world where we wear busyness as a badge of honour, and the hustle is our idol, the Sabbath is often seen as outdated and unimportant.

But Sabbath is necessary.

When I reflect on how I’m living my life, I’m always drawn back to what God says in the Bible about how we’re to live our lives. I mean, if God designed human beings (and I believe that He did) then surely He knows the best way for us to function and thrive. Throughout the Old and New Testament we see the principle of Sabbath being held up as important.

Sabbath: A weekly day of rest and worship.

Who has time for that?

But really, you don’t have time not to Sabbath!

Looking around we are in a mental health crisis, burnout rates are high in all areas of the workplace, and “I’m tired” or “I’m busy” are the mantras of a generation. The daily grind has ground us up. Maybe there’s a better way to live? Maybe there’s an ancient way to rediscover? Maybe the Sabbath is still vital for human flourishing in our personal lives, in our families, in our workplaces, and in our churches.

We’re never going to truly practice Sabbath until we see it as important. You see, we do what we truly value, not what we just say we value.

God sees Sabbath as important, extremely important. In fact, it was included in the 10 commandments that He gave to His people, the Israelites, in the Old Testament after they came out of 400 years of slavery. Slavery had been all that they had known, they now needed to learn a better way to live, God’s way. The commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy is right next to the classics – do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not lie etc.

This Sabbath thing is serious business and, again, if God knows what we need to thrive as human beings then it’s worth paying attention to!

Sabbath is serious business and if God knows what we need to thrive as human beings then it’s worth paying attention to!

I get it, but what about grace? For followers of Jesus we are now no longer under the law, Jesus fulfilled the conditions to bring us into a right standing with our Heavenly Father. We are saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ who died for the world for the forgiveness of sin and raised to life again – death and satan conquered. Amen and Amen.

However, although we are not relying on keeping the 10 commandments to save us, we see in the 10 commandments what God values. Just because we’re under grace doesn’t mean that we now go around murdering, lying, and stealing (if you are, you need to stop!) God values life, truth, purity, and honour, and we see all of them reflected in the 10 commandments. And yet, is it possible that we ignore keeping the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is not there for it to become a burden to us each week so that we begin to resent it but the purpose of Sabbath is to be restorative and healing to our bodies, minds, souls, relationships, and communities. Myself and Emily, my wife, started practicing a weekly Sabbath several months before the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s a day a week where we set aside a day of rest and reoriented our hearts on God. No paid work, and no chores around the flat. We still have a lot of room to grow in ‘Sabbathing’ but I would now be bold enough to say that maintaining a weekly Sabbath has kept me sane throughout the pandemic and I am sure it’s going to be a lasting practice for us.

Sabbath sounds good right… in theory? One of the most common questions I’m asked when I’m talking about Sabbath with friends and those I lead is how to actually spend your day? What can you do?

Here’s a little guidance without being too prescriptive, because you need to work out what Sabbath looks like for you:

Make it a priority! Ask yourself ‘what will get in the way?’ Taking a day a week to rest requires preparation! If you’re used to playing catch up with chores and doing your food shop on your day off then you’ll need to plan and do them at another point in the week.

Make a plan. I’m quite a planner (sometimes I’m planning so much I realise that my planning has turned into procrastination – undermining the productive effect of planning!) so I need to have sense of direction of how I will spend my time on a Sabbath. I’d recommend breaking your Sabbath day into three parts, morning, afternoon, and evening. Think about one thing you’ll do in each part. For example, have brunch, go for a prayer walk, read a book, meet a friend for coffee, etc.

Sabbath is rest and worship, worship and rest, so align how you spend your Sabbath by enjoying who God is, enjoying who God has placed in your life, and enjoying what God has given you.

Align how you spend your Sabbath by enjoying who God is, enjoying who God has placed in your life, and enjoying what God has given you.

Reflect

Go look at the 10 commandments and check out the word count given to each commandment. (You can find them in Exodus or Deuteronomy) What does this tell you about the value that God places on Sabbath?

What will you shift in your thinking or in your diary to help you Sabbath well?


Thanks for reading, please share your reflections or any questions that you have about Sabbath in the comments, I’d love to hear from you, Dan 🙂

Further reading

‘Take the day off’ by Robert Morris is fantastic on what the Bible teaches us on Sabbath as followers of Jesus in the 21st century.